Monty Delk Clemency Letter
EXECUTED FEBRUARY 2002
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BY: FAX: 512-463-1849
February 19, 2002
Mr. Gerald Garrett
Chairman, Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
Price Daniel, Sr. Building
209 W. 14th Street, Suite 500
Austin, Texas 78701
Re: Monty Delk
Dear Chairman Garrett:
On behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, we urge you to stay the execution of Monty Delk, currently scheduled for February 28, 2002 and to commute his death sentence to life imprisonment without parole. Such relief is merited because of Mr. Delk's current mental illness. Mr. Delk is suffering from bipolar disorder with psychotic features. As a result, he is unable to understand the reason for or the reality of his punishment. The Unites States Constitution, United States Supreme Court jurisprudence and a Texas statute prohibit executing someone in Mr. Delk's mental condition.
Mr. Delk was only nineteen years old when he committed the 1986 murder. He was sentenced to death in 1988. After several years on death row, Mr. Delk's mental health declined markedly. The prison medial staff determined that Mr. Delk was suffering from bipolar disorder with psychotic features. The medical staff prescribed doses of lithium for Mr. Delk's condition.
Mr. Delk's mental condition has manifested itself in several ways. He is not communicative and often speaks an unintelligible gibberish. As a result, he has been unable to have any coherent discussions with his attorney since the onset of his mental disease. Furthermore, Mr. Delk has engaged in unusual behavior such as covering himself in his own feces. Despite his behavior, the state has concluded that Mr. Delk is "malingering" in order to avoid the death penalty.
The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment of criminals. The Supreme Court has interpreted the Eighth Amendment to prohibit a state from executing the insane- even if they were sane at the time they committed the crime. See Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399 (1986). The Supreme Court reasoned that there could be no retributive value in executing a person who can't comprehend why he is being stripped of his fundamental right to life. The Court added that civilized societies are not willing to kill someone who is unable to come to grips with his own conscience or deity.
A 1999 Texas statute codified the Supreme Court's decision in Ford. V. Wainwright. See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Art. 46.04. The statute declares that a "defendant is incompetent to be executed" if he "does not understand: (1) that he . . . is to be executed and that the execution is imminent; and (2) the reason he . . . is being executed." See id. The Texas statute makes it clear that someone in Mr. Delk's condition may not be executed.
Executing Mr. Delk would violate the United States Constitution, Supreme Court jurisprudence, and a Texas Statute. Given the irrevocable consequences of the death penalty, we urge you to stay the execution of Mr. Delk and commute his penalty to life in prison without parole.
The ACLU opposes capital punishment in all cases as a barbarous anachronism and in violation of the Constitution. Mr. Delk's case particularly merits clemency. Because of Mr. Delk's mental condition, we submit that Texas should afford him full consideration for the plea to commute his sentence to life in prison without parole.
ACLU Capital Punishment Project
ACLU of Texas
Bart T. East*
Pro Bono Counsel
Squire, Sanders & Dempsey L.L.P.
1201 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004
* Admitted to practice in New York. Admittance to the District of Columbia Bar pending.